IHBC submits evidence to Commons Select Committee Inquiry on ‘Supporting our High Streets after Covid-19’

The IHBC has submitted its evidence to the Commons Select Committee Inquiry into ‘Supporting our high streets after Covid-19’.

Culture is a driver of economic development.

The IHBC writes:

We are very pleased to have the chance to offer comments to the Inquiry. IHBC welcomes this Commons select committee inquiry looking at the long term consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak for businesses and amenities on the future of the high street. We also welcome governments desire to mitigate the economic and social impact and develop policies to ensure high streets remain the centre of local communities.

IHBC also encourages Government to consider reducing VAT…

Culture is a driver of economic development. Heritage-led economic development and regeneration has transformed many town centres and high streets, peripheral commercial and industrial areas over the past couple of decades. There are many good case studies…

… The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee report on High streets and town centres in 2030 highlighted the challenges facing high streets and town centres due to strong competition from online competitors, an unfair taxation regime and the fragmented ownership of commercial properties. On the first two points, we believe there is a growing need to change the basis of local authority funding away from business rates, which unfairly penalise the businesses still operating in town centres whereas on line businesses pay very little tax. Continuing to base council taxes on property, and to further penalise empty or part-empty properties that are symptoms of changes in retail and dining habits, accelerated by Covid-19, will devastate High Streets and city centres. Fragmented ownership can be positive in helping promote diversity and mixed uses rather than monolithic malls. Factoring can achieve common repairs for housing and the shops below, something being developed by the Scottish Parliamentary Working group in collaboration with BEFS and RICS…

A renewed focus on heritage-led regeneration in historic areas will help high streets. Funding area grant schemes would support investment, improve the appearance of buildings especially shopfronts and make upper floors more viable. Such interventions are sustainable and have long term benefits for relatively small investment….

… IHBC also encourages Government to consider reducing VAT on the repair of buildings especially historic and Listed Buildings. The current imposition of VAT on repairs works in favour of new build and greenfield development. Removal of VAT on repairs would encourage the repair and reuse of town centre buildings.

Town centres still need to encourage people from outside to visit for shopping, and personal and social activities. Out of town or edge of town shopping needs careful planning for proposals near to struggling High streets. The mismatch of free parking outside towns and costly parking in towns may also prevent the use of town centres. A strategic removal or reduction of parking fees in town centres, especially small towns, and a focus on maintaining better affordable public transport, will help sustain and support the use of town centres.

Download the submission

See more background on the IHBC Consultations Panel on the NewsBlogs

Consultations Panel Terms
Membership of the IHBC Consultations Panel is entirely at the discretion of the IHBC.  Panel members  must conduct themselves appropriately and communicate professionally in accordance with the IHBC’s Code of Conduct.  The panel circulation is public amongst its members, to promote engagement and understanding, so all comments must respect the public nature of the communications.

For more on IHBC consultations and the panel’s work see the Consultations Panel

Contact Consultations panel co-ordinator Fiona Newton at operations@ihbc.org.uk to be considered for inclusion in the Consultations Panel.

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